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What the NYC Cultural Plan Means for the Dance Community
Last month, New York City mayor Bill de Blasio unveiled Create NYC: A Cultural Plan for All New Yorkers. Stemming from two years of research into arts organizations throughout the five boroughs and feedback from over 200,000 New Yorkers, the plan seeks to diversify cultural institutions and increase funding within underserved communities.
So what does this entail for dance artists? While there is nothing specifically dance-related in the plan, many dance companies and artists within marginalized and lower-income communities stand to benefit from increased funding.
Here are the key takeaways:
Nothing too surprising comes out of the research findings, which highlight some of the major work we have to do as far as making arts institutions more equitable.
- Cultural participation is 20% higher among highest income residents vs. lowest income residents.
- While 67% of NYC residents identify as people of color, only 38% of employees at cultural institutions are people of color.
- 78% of board members are white.
- 75% of artists support their income with jobs unrelated to their art.
- 97% of survey respondents say arts and culture is important to the quality of life in NYC.
As far as overall city funding for the arts, there's good news: The city's budget for 2018 arts funding increased by $18.5 million, to a total of $188.1 million. (Although compared to Paris' $3.3 billion annual arts and culture budget, this number still seems low.)
Is Dance Being Represented?
During Dance/NYC's yearly symposium in March, the organization hosted a conversation about the future of dance in NYC, as well as a presentation on the NYC Cultural Plan. So it does seem like the city is trying to listen to the dance community. However, choreographer Joanna Haigood is the only dance artist appointed to the Citizen's Advisory Committee, a group that advises the DCLA during the "development and implementation of the cultural plan." Although Haigood has been involved with NYC's Dancing in the Streets for over 20 years, she relocated to San Francisco in 1979 and founded Zaccho Dance Theatre (according to their website, she is a SF-based artist.) In a city chock-full of incredible full-time dance artists, it's curious that Haigood is the sole dance advisor.
Arts Funding for Low-Income Neighborhoods
Part of the plan's immediate action includes $1.5 million dedicated to cultural programming in low-income areas, as well as direct grants for underrepresented groups. This allocation could directly affect dance organizations in need, particularly those located in the outer boroughs. An additional $4.5 million will go towards support for Cultural Institution Groups (the group of 33 public museums and arts groups who operate in city-owned buildings or city-owned land, such as Brooklyn Academy of Music, The Public Theater and Queens Theatre), with $1 million specifically for those in low-income communities.
Direct Support for Individual Artists
The DCLA plans to provide $750,000 in much-needed grants as immediate support for individual artists. The People's Cultural Plan—a 17-page document drawn up by artists and activists in direct response to NYC's plan—demands a much more aggressive solution for artist support, calling for rent freezes and legislation defining rights and wages for arts employees, independent contractors and freelance artists across DCLA-funded organizations. The People's Plan addresses the problems of unpaid labor, gentrification and the exploitation of artists, all of which is absent from Create NYC.
A Diversity Mandate for the Cultural Workforce
One of the biggest changes coming out of the plan is the proposal to link funding to diversity. Institutions who receive city funding will be held accountable for the diversity of their employees and board members, and what they're doing to become more equitable. As of yet, it's unclear how exactly this will translate to funding. The plan will also help boost diversity at arts organizations through shorter-term projects, like a $740,000 professional development program at select institutions to help junior level staff grow their leadership skills, and continuing support for the CUNY Cultural Corps, which places undergraduates into paid internships at arts organizations.
Institutions like the Metropolitan Museum of Art will be held accountable for increasing the diversity of their staff. Here, Gallim Dance at the Met's Temple of Dendur. Photo by Ani Coller.
Support for Disabled Audiences & Artists
The dance community has long discussed how we can better include disabled artists and audiences. Create NYC has set aside $2.2 million for grant programs to help create more accessible arts and culture venues.
Use #CreateNYC to join the discussion on social media and visit www.nyc.gov/culture for more information on how to stay engaged with the plan.
When Rachel Hamrick was in the corps of Universal Ballet in Seoul, her determination to strengthen her flexibility turned into a side hobby that would eventually land her a new career. "I was in La Bayadere for the first time, and I was the first girl out for that arabesque sequence in The Kingdom of the Shades," she says. "I had the flexibility, but I was wobbly because I wasn't stretching in the right way. That's when I first started playing around with the idea of the Flexistretcher. It was tied together then, so it was definitely more makeshift," she says with a laugh, "But I trained with it to help me get the correct alignment so that I would have the strength to sustain the whole act."
Now, Hamrick is running her own business, complete with an ever-growing product line and her FLX training method—all because of her initial need to make it through 38 arabesques.
For the new Broadway season, Ellenore Scott has scored two associate choreographer gigs: For Head Over Heels, which starts previews June 23, Scott is working with choreographer Spencer Liff on an original musical mashing up The Go-Go's punk-rock hits with a narrative based on Sir Philip Sidney's 1590 book, Arcadia. Four days after that show opens, she'll head into rehearsals for this fall's King Kong, collaborating with director/choreographer Drew McOnie and a 20-foot gorilla.
Scott gave us the inside scoop about Head Over Heels, the craziness of her freelance hustle and the most surprising element of working on Broadway.
Dance in movies is a trend as old as time. Movies like The Red Shoes and Singin' in the Rain paved the way for Black Swan and La La Land; dancing stars like Gene Kelly and Ginger Rogers led the way for Channing Tatum and Julianne Hough.
Lucky for us, some of Hollywood's most incredible dance scenes have been compiled into this amazing montage, featuring close to 300 films in only seven minutes. So grab the popcorn, cozy on up, and watch the moves that made the movies.
Broadway musicals have been on my mind for more than half a century. I discovered them in grade school, not in a theater but electronically. On the radio, every weeknight an otherwise boring local station would play a cast album in its entirety; on television, periodically Ed Sullivan's Sunday night variety show would feature an excerpt from the latest hit—numbers from Bye Bye Birdie, West Side Story, Camelot, Flower Drum Song.
But theater lives in the here and now, and I was in middle school when I attended my first Broadway musical, Gypsy—based, of all things, on the early life of the famed burlesque queen Gypsy Rose Lee. I didn't know who Jerome Robbins was, but I recognized genius when I saw it—kids morphing into adults as a dance number progresses, hilarious stripping routines, a pas de deux giving concrete shape to the romantic yearnings of an ugly duckling. It proved the birth of a lifelong habit, indulged for the last 18 years in the pages of this magazine. But all long runs eventually end, and it's time to say good-bye to the "On Broadway" column. It's not the last of our Broadway coverage—there's too much great work being created and performed, and you can count on hearing from me in print and online.
If you want to know how scary the AIDS epidemic was in the 1980s, come see Ishmael Houston-Jones' piece THEM from 1986. This piece reveals the subterranean fears that crept into gay relationships at the time. Houston-Jones is one of downtown's great improvisers, and his six dancers also improvise in response to his suggestions. With Chris Cochrane's edgy guitar riffs and Dennis Cooper's ominous text, there's an unpredictable, near-creepy but epic quality to THEM.
What is the right flooring system for us?
So many choices, companies, claims, endorsements, and recommendations to consider. The more you look, the more confusing it gets. Here is what you need to do. Here is what you need to know to get the flooring system suited to your needs.
This time last year, Catherine Conley was already living a ballet dancer's dream. After an exchange between her home ballet school in Chicago and the Cuban National Ballet School in Havana, she'd been invited to train in Cuba full-time. It was the opportunity of a lifetime, and one that was nearly unheard of for an American dancer. Now, though, Conley has even more exciting news: She's a full-fledged member of the National Ballet of Cuba's corps de ballet.
"In the school there were other foreigners, but in the company I'm the only foreigner—not just the only American, but the only non-Cuban," Conley says. But she doesn't feel like an outsider, or like a dancer embarking on a historic journey. "Nobody makes me feel different. They treat me as one of them," she says. Conley has become fluent in Spanish, and Cuba has come to feel like home. "The other day I was watching a movie that was dubbed in Spanish, and I understand absolutely everything now," she says.
Chantel Aguirre may call sunny Los Angeles home, but the Shaping Sound company member and NUVO faculty member spends more time in the air, on a tour bus or in a convention ballroom than she does in the City of Angels.
Aguirre, who is married to fellow Shaping Sound member Michael Keefe, generally only spends one week per month at home. "When I'm not working, I'm exploring," Aguirre says. "Michael and I are total travel junkies."
Akram Khan and Florence Welch (of Florence + The Machine) is not a pairing we ever would have dreamt up. But now that the music video for "Big God" has dropped, with choreography attributed to Khan and Welch, it seems that we just weren't dreaming big enough.
In the video, Welch leads a group of women standing in an eerily reflective pool of water. They seem untouchable, until they begin shedding their colorful veils, movements morphing to become animalistic and aggressive as the song progresses.
Savannah Lowery is about as well acquainted with the inner workings of a hospital as she is with the intricate footwork of Dewdrop.
As a child, the former New York City Ballet soloist would roam the hospital where her parents worked, pushing buttons and probably getting into too much trouble, she says. While other girls her age were clad in tutus playing ballerina, she was playing doctor.
"It just felt like home. I think it made me not scared of medicine, not scared of a hospital," she says. "I thought it was fascinating what they did."
It can be hard to focus when Alice Sheppard dances.
Her recent sold-out run of DESCENT at New York Live Arts, for instance, offered a constellation of stimulation. Onstage was a large architectural ramp with an assortment of peaks and planes. There was an intricate lighting and projection design. There was a musical score that unfolded like an epic poem. There was a live score too: the sounds of Sheppard and fellow dancer Laurel Lawson's bodies interacting with the surfaces beneath them.
And there were wheelchairs. But if you think the wheelchairs are the center of this work, you're missing something vital about what Sheppard creates.
A Jellicle Ball is coming to the big screen, with the unlikeliest of dancemakers on tap to choreograph.
We'll give you some hints: His choreography can aptly be described as "animalistic," though Jellicle cats have never come to mind specifically when watching his hyper-physical work. He's worked on movies before—even one about Beasts. And though contemporary ballet is his genre of choice, his choreography is certainly theatrical enough to lend itself to a musical.